We all start to panic when the pantry gets low and the veggies start to go a little nasty. Fear not! I am here to lend you a few <insert ingredient here> recipes to help you get through those last few days before you hit the grocery store. The below ideas are my go to’s both when I’m lazy and when I have ran out of shit to make. I noticed as I made this list that many of the ideas are based on ethnic foods. I’ve got no idea why. I was exposed to a lot of Chinese take out and Mexican restaurants as a child, so may that’s got something to do with that subject. Let’s walk right past that and take a look at how I empty my fridge.
Seriously, you can put everything but the kitchen sink in a fried rice so long as you have rice in the first place. I rely on this regularly when I have a few vegetables that need to GTFO of my fridge before the Arm and Hammer box in the back has to start doing work. You can find a lot of fried rice guides online, and a lot of them will tell you leftover white rice is preferable. Let's not fool around. You don’t have that, and you don't have time for that. No pot of rice survives a single meal in my house, and I’m only cooking for two.
The only other non-negotiable ingredient is egg. I scramble fry those bad boys after my vegetables that need a longer cook are most of the way through. Soft veggies like mushrooms go in after that. There are a lot of fried rice recipes out there to give you the technique that you just have to adapt to the state of your fridge.
Here are a few I suggest you look at to get an idea:
New York Times Fried Rice Recipe
Food Network Kitchen’s Fried Rice
If I have a package of wontons in the fridge, and I often do, this is a common way for me to clear out my veggies in a hurry. Chop the veggies real fine. Saute until softened. Allow them to cool, and then roll those bad boys into any shape you like so long as you close your wonton. You can fry them whole or steam them, whatever you prefer. I pair mine with a thai sweet chili sauce out of the bottle. I'm not proud. My husband just drowns them in soy. Either way, they make for a meal beside a bowl of rice, and you can rest easy knowing you let that head of broccoli turn rancid in your crisper drawer.
I don’t follow a recipe for these. This is all me. I sweat out the veggies, let them cool, and then roll them into the wonton. While I’m making my wonton pouches, I heat up some oil at about medium high heat. I never measure the temperature. When I’m done, I drop a few into the oil. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan. They don’t need very long. 2-3 minutes. They’ll start to float once they’re cooked.
I have a lot of rice and soba noodles stored in my pantry for when the stir fry is called to serve. Like fried rice, I just dump whatever I have in and pray. It cooks a lot like fried rice, except you add the noodles after you’ve cooked them to whatever veggies and meat you have going in the wok. Again, no recipe ideas here. You can live it up.
A common one that we use is tofu stirfry. I’ll fry my little cubes and set them off to the side, then do some veggies like onion, broccoli, garlic, peppers, etc in the wok. I soak my rice noodles during this cooking process and add them to the veggies once I feel they’ve cooked. I only add my perspective sauce once the noodles are in the wok. Cook it down so the sauce combines with everything, top with fried tofu bits, and serve.
The tortilla is an incredible vehicle. It can become a chip, a taco, a burrito, a quesadilla. It is a food item upon which whole cultures have developed, and I can’t really blame them for it. The tortilla gets a lot of use in my home as part of my fridge cleaning repertoire. I totally bastardize the concept of the quesadilla using whatever cheese I have in my fridge to again move veggies like broccoli, spinach, and the like out of my drawers. I’m sure I’d offend someone’s abuela with what I do, but it works.
I turn to the quesadilla more often than the burrito because it's just more time efficient for me, but there’s nothing stopping you from making a pot of beans or rice or both to turn that quesadilla into a burrito, or dare I say it, a quesorito. All of the same ingredients can be rolled into a burrito as can be cooked into a quesadilla. I may actually do a ‘burrito rolling’ article since I graduated from the school of Taco Bell in high school. I learned some mad tortilla tricks in that bad boy.
You know best what you’ve got in your fridge. These are just three ideas I tend to employ at least once a week to help me utilize every ingredient I purchase on the weekend trip to the grocery store. We all have some fall back recipes, but maybe one of these ideas can help you with those problem ingredients you sometimes forget about in the crisper drawer. Happy cooking!
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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